* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

My Photo
Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

I work in Guatemala with Hope Haven international and Bethel Ministries. Along with my friends Chris and Donna Mooney and their family, we share the love of Jesus in various ways. Although giving out and maintaining wheelchairs is our primary ministry, we are involved in many other things as well. Building houses, feeding the hungry, providing education to handicapped children in orphanages and villages, and hosting a camp for the handicapped are just a small part of the things that God has given us the privilege of getting involved in. For several years now I have been keeping daily journals. Once a week I try to post new journals and pictures. My e-mail is dick@dickrutgers.com Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Journal, February 20-24, 2010

My good friends Dave and Lou Black have been spending the past few Days with me and once again they have graciously offered to do my journaling for me. Although this is a blessing to me I have been made aware by many of you that since the 2 of them speak only Canadian, much of what they say is difficult to understand by those of you that speak real English. Although I do not have the time to translate all of what they wrote, I will do my best to interpret the first few paragraphs of Lou's journal into true USA English. Hoping that it will give you some idea of what Lou is really trying to say. All translations will appear in the same shade of red that my face turned when I first read the following.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Saturday February 20, 2010

Today had a couple of those “ahaa” (the word ahaa in Canadian means "Wow this is great!") moments for me. The first “ahaa” ("Wow this is great!") came when I realized that maybe aftershave is not meant for everyone. (Is meant for only real men like Dick) When we got into Dick’s car I, who have virtually no sense of smell, (I never carrie a handkerchief and allows my nose to plug up or run) could smell this overpowering sweet smell. (wonderful sweet aroma) Dick tried to pass it off as (assured me that it was) sugarcane water which he had driven through the day before but who knows for sure. (and I know that he was right) All that my husband had to say was (My husband even liked it and said) “Sweet ride, Dick”, but I knew better than to say anything about it at all. (but I am still fuming because I didn't get the last word in.)

The second “ahaa” ("Wow this is great!") came when I looked around Dick’s Land Cruiser and realized that when people are plunged into the depths of terror, (overwhelmed with the splendor of the day) everyone reacts differently. Saul was sleeping. (meditating and praying in thankfulness for such a wonderful day) It must be the way that his brain takes precautionary measures to ensure that he does not lose his sanity. (This was obviously his way of showing gratitude for knowing that he was riding with one of the most competent drivers in all of Guatemala, and a way of focusing his thoughts on the beauty of the surrounding country side.) Amirilis was grasping, for all she was worth, the “Oh my Goodness” handles above her door. (Amerillis had her hands lifted heavenward in obvious praise for this marvelous day.) Dave was grasping, in desperation, the handle grip on the dash, (Dave was obviously enjoying the ride as well, as he sat with outstretched hands pointing out the beautiful country side.) and me?, well I don’t think I screamed the entire way but I’m pretty sure I left my hand prints embedded in the seats in front of me. (as for me? I could not contain myself and at times found myself shrieking for joy. At one point I became so overwhelmed that when I reached out my hands in praise I accidentally snagged a fingernail on the seat in front of me and caused a slight tare in the fabric.) Kind of makes you wonder why Dick’s favorite joke goes like this...

"I want to go quietly in my sleep, like my grandfather did, not screaming in terror like the other people in his car!

(Dick added to the enjoyment of the day by reminiscing about his childhood days and telling us about some of his favorite relatives.)

I wonder why he likes that joke so much? (Dick has such a marvelous sense of humor.)

The third “ahaa” ("Wow this is great!") came while we were at a restaurant, eating lunch. I came to the conclusion that Dick’s English must be almost as bad as his Spanish. (No matter what language he uses, Dick has such a way with words.) What we heard him ask was “Would you guys like to take a dirt road? It will be much more scenic.” It didn’t take us long to realize that what he must have meant to say was “Would you guys like to take a goat’s path? (Drive through a lovely park like setting on a well maintained meandering dirt road). It will be much more scenic.” In his defense though, (as I expected Dick was absolutely right) it did have some of the most incredible scenery that I have ever seen. (Sounds like Lou is starting to get her USA English down a bit better so I will stop translating from here on out.)

Every time that I am driving through the hills of Guatemala the words from “These Thousand Hills” by Third Day, ring in my head. For those of you who don’t know the words, they go like this:

These thousand hills roll ever on
In footprints of a Mighty God
They bring me to my knees in praise
Amazing love, amazing grace
Was on a hill my Savior died
A broken heart, a bleeding side
Hill of the skull, Mount Calvary
The blood He shed, He shed for me

Today we ascended and descended hills on hairpin curves, varying heights from above 6000 ft to below 200 ft. I am always humbled by the fact that the very God who formed these amazing hills, suffered and died so that I can have a relationship with him.

When we reached our final destination of La Tinta we met up with the rest of the team who have already built a house and bunk beds and installed the cement floor and a cinder block stove.
Once again Dick, all kidding aside, thank you for an incredible day!

Your sister in Christ,

Sunday, February 21, 2010
Written by Dave.

After a 'fitful' night of sleep - Our room faced the main street of La Tintla. Between the church next door maxing out their 'Peavey' speakers, street dogs barking, and car racing 'wanna bees', - I think I got a couple hours of sleep.

I managed to get up on time for our 7 a.m. 'desayuno' at a comedor down the street. We then drove to the Salon Municipal where the wheel chair distribution was to take place. After what Ralph, from Washington State, described as comparable to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, in length, we started fitting people into chairs at about 10:30 a.m. Actually, with my limited espanol, I did hear "The Lord" mentioned quite a few times in the speeches.

I was 'assisting' Dick with fitting specialty chairs, which Saul was also fitting. Dan, Lou, Ralph, Debbie, Jen, Kelty, and Mark were working on regular wheelchairs. Marcia and Chris were keeping things flowing, while Marcia's husband, Alejandro, fitted people with walkers and crutches (his specialty). What an amazing team! Chris said that 51 people received chairs and we were finished by 2 p.m.!

Dick and I fitted a boy with spinal bifida with what we thought was out last chair. He was pretty happy with it. Then just at the end, a 16 year old boy came in by ambulance. Apparently, recently, he was playing basketball and got caught in some cross-fire. He is now paralyzed with a bullet still inside. And to top things off, his parents have abandoned him, leaving no one to look after him. Please keep this boy in your prayers as he looks lost and rightfully so.

Because we finished early, some of the group went up the hill to the home they had built on Thursday and Friday to install bunk beds and give the family a water filter. My heart said "Go" but my metal hips said "No", so I decided to stay behind.


Dick writes,

Dave made a wise decision in staying back at the hotel. All of us were completely out of breath by their time we finally reached the place where Chris, Howie, Juan and the teem from Washington State had built the home. How they managed to get all of the cement block, corrugated metal and other material up the steep trail from their vehicles nearly a half mile below is beyond me.


Dave writes,

I should mention how Lou and I came along on this trip. Friends of ours from Canada arrived in Mexico last week and asked us to come and visit them. After checking flights ($700 U.S.), and buses (17 hours), we declined. Then Dick asked us to go to La Tinta. Thank you, Lord!

p.s. I think the only reason Dick asked me to assist him, was because he has a sore thumb and I am "all thumbs"...

Dick drove us back "off the beaten trail", through one lush, green valley, then through one very dry one. What amazing scenery, Lord!


Monday February 22

Written by Lou.

Today was another travel day. There will be no shots taken at Dick today as he brought us home safely over some incredible terrain which included some of the steepest hills and the sharpest hairpin curves that I have ever witnessed. He even brought us through some river beds that were for some reason or other, missing their bridges.

Since I had lots of time to think, most of my day was spent reviewing an incident that happened at yesterday’s wheelchair distribution. After I had helped to fit a wheelchair for a woman, she tried to thank me through the interpreter. My response to her was that she was welcome but the wheelchair was actually a gift from God. At this point the interpreter straightened up, turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said, “We realize this, but someone had to be His hands and His feet and today, that was you.” Even writing this chokes me up. That very morning I had prayed that I would be exactly that, His hands and feet, and He had the grace to use this little, old lady to let me know that I had been. What an awesome God I serve.

By the way when I say little, I mean little. I’m pretty sure she was only about 4 feet. When I say old, I mean old. She was just a few months shy of 90. When I say lady, I may be pushing it. She kept hiking up her skirt, trying to show Dan the scar that she had from her hip surgery. That poor man. I’m glad he has a great sense of humor.

So Dick, no shots today. Just a big Thank you Brother, for this opportunity.

Your sister in Christ

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dick Writes

This morning my friend Rolland Elf and I headed up to a village that is located about 45 minutes drive from Tecpan. A few weeks ago I had gone to this same village along with pastor Juan to see a little boy that he had heard about that needed a wheelchair. When we arrived at the home of Christian and his family we quickly realized that Christian needed much more than a wheelchair if he was expected to live more than a few months.

Thanks to the efforts of my friend Rolland and a wonderful Guatemalan neurosurgeon who was willing to to see Christian; today we were going to take Christian in to Guatemala City to see if there was any hope for him. The doctor that we were meeting with today was the same man that had without charge operated on and saved Florinda's life only a few months ago. This doctor is known to be one of the top neurosurgeons in all of Central American and has a very full scheduled but he acted like he had all of the time in the world when he examined Christian and took his time in answering all of our questions. I wish that I could say that Christian's prognoses looks good but after examining Christian and looking at the MRI results. The doctor told us that there is little hope for Christian. Christian has almost no brain left. The doctor explained that at this point even if a shunt were put in it would eliminate the pressure that is inside of Christian's head but Christian would never improve. The doctor was gracious enough to tell Christians mother that he would preform the surgery for free and even provide the shunt if she felt that she wanted her son to have the surgery but made her aware that at best, all it would do is make her son some what more comfortable. Mom told him that she would go home and think it over. If mom elects to have the surgery done there will still be hospital expenses. I never want to be accused of trying to out play God, I am wondering if perhaps the money (most of which we do not have) would be more wisely spent on food and medicine for Christian and his family and perhaps improve their quality of life even more that a shunt would at this point. Please pray that God shows us what should or should not be done.

When I got home tonight a few of my kids accused me of being grouchy. I an afraid that they were right. With tears in my eyes I told them about Christian. I looked up and saw tears in their eyes. I am proud of my boys they are becoming real men. They are learning that it is OK to cry.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I am beginning to wonder if the schools here are ever going to reopen. All but a hand full of the public schools are now on strike. During the past few days many of the teachers have blocked several of the highways some times for several hours at a time. I am not sure that this is a way to get the general public to take their side and not too sure weather or not the president cares much or even knows about it. At any rate I am once again being bombarded by kids that want to spend the day dooing what ever it is that I am doing.

Today Calin and Jason accompanied the 6 people that are here from Washington State and myself to Hermano Pedro Orphanage. Since this is old hat to my kids and 5 of the 6 people that are here from the States have been to the orphanage on previous visits I opted not to give them the usual half hour to one hour tour. Instead we went straight in to the orphanage and started loving on the kids. This was another one of those thumbs up groups that needed no coaxing in order to get them to react with the kids. The only hard part of the day was when we had to decide which 7 of the nearly 250 residence to take along with us to lunch. I ended up once again being the bad guy who had to make that decision. It did not take long for the 7 kids that we did take to lunch to convince us that at least as far as they were concerned we had made the perfect choice.

Bobby who always manages to get more food on him than in him outdid himself today when he some how managed to dump his entire plate of french fries all over himself. It would not have been so bad but much to Bobby's delight Deb who helping him had already topped them off with every condiment imaginable. It is amazing what an assortment of colors a combination of Ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, hot sause and who know what else can produce. It would have made any Hippy from the Sixties who was wearing a tie die shirt green with envy.

After lunch we took the kids over to to playground equipment that Camperos has. The kids and adults had an absolute ball. I am slowly getting the kids to realize that if they put up a fuss when it is time to leave it is likely that they will not get to go again for quite some time. I think it is working because today we had no problem with the kids when it was time to leave, and the teem from the USA promised me that they will have a talk with Ralph before letting him come back.

Before leaving Camperos we tried to get Bobby cleaned up. (Actually he did not look much better after our attempt to get him some what cleaned up but you should have seen what those of us that held him looked like.) (This will definitely be the last time that I wear a white t-shirt to lunch.)

On our way back to the orphanage I had an elderly gentleman who was wearing a pony tale give me the piece sign. I shouted to him that I liked the flowers that were painted on his buss. He put his homemade cigarette back into his mouth, waved and drove off.

After bringing the kids back to the orphanage we all headed back to Chimaltenango. After a quick stop at my place to change my shirt we all walked over to the soccer field. My friends from the USA wanted to meet my kids so we figured, what better way to get them together than to have a soccer game followed by a pizza feed. I will save the Americans any embarrassment by not posting any photos of them attempting to play soccer with the kids but know I have some what of an idea of what I look like when I attempt to play soccer with them. About the only way that I can explain it is, have you ever seen a bulldozer try to outmaneuver a bumblebee? Everyone had a great time though and judging by the looks on the Americans faces the scrapes and welts that the bulldozers received from the bumblebees were well worth it.

After the hour long soccer game that some of the Americans swear lasted 3 hours, the 22 of us walked or waddled over to Camperos for Pizza. Thanks Teem for making this a day that the kids from the orphanage and those from my neighborhood will not soon forget.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Journal, February 14-19, 2010

Sunday-Tuesday, February 14-16, 2010

All of the people that wrote last weeks journal have returned to the States so I am once again at it. I am gong to break into this a bit slowly by combining 3 days into one. Don't worry though by the end of the week I will more than likely get lengthy again and you will more than likely be thankful for these shorter entries. Another reason that I am starting off slow is to give my sprained thumb a little time to heal. I am slowly starting to realize that 63 is just a bit to old to play soccer with the kids. I am seriously thinking about becoming a full time spectator. Well at least for a week or 2 or however long it takes for my thumb to get smaller than my wrist. I guess that I shouldn't complain though. Jason just showed up with his arm in a cast. He told me that this morning he slipped on a wet floor at his home and broke a finger and a few bones in his hand. He was all alone at his house when it happened so to occupy his time until his mother showed up he took some pictures of his hand. Didn't mean to gorse you out but only Jason would do something like that. Any way enough of my lengthy explanation as to why my journal entry was originally going to be short.

Sunday morning the boys and I went to church and then I took a group of 15 Americans through the orphanage. (There how is that for short?)

On Monday Fernando, Bryan and I headed to the orphanage. Fernando had no school because it was his teachers birthday. If you think that is bad, Bryan had no school because it was Fernando's teachers birthday. ??? I am only repeating what the kids told me.

Shortly before noon Carlos joined us and we headed for the coast. A little over a week ago I mentioned in my journal that Julio who we had placed in the nutritional ward of Hermano Pedro a few years ago had slowly been loosing weight ever since he returned home. On my last visit I thought I had convinced his parent to let me get him back intothe malnutrition ward for a few months so that he could once again get some meat on his bones. Julio is 11 years old and I doubt that he weighs 25 pounds. Like I said I thought that I had his parents convinced, but today when we showed up mother had every reason in the book for not wanting to get her son the help that he needed. We did our best to try to convince her to come along with us but finally had to tell her to call us if and when she changed her mind. I am praying that she will come to her senses and realize that her son could die if she does not allow us to help him. Please pray that she will have a change of hart.

I received some good news when I got home though. Rolland called me and said that the neurosurgeon in Guatemala City that operated on Florinda is willing to see Christian, the little boy that I saw on Saturday who has hydrocephalus (water on the brain). It sounds like he may be willing to operate on Christian for free. We will still have to pay the hospital fees which may run near $500 but the surgery is usually the major expense. It sounds like there is a possibility that we can get Christian operated on as early as the first part of next week. I am praying that it is not too late for this little boy.

Well that is 3 days in a nut shell.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

(Praise the Lord!)
I just got a phone call form Julio's mom.

She asked me if I could come tomorrow and pick her and Julio up so that we could get him admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. Yes this means a repeat of the yesterday's 5 hour round trip to and from their home but if it means that this little guy will stay alive I would be willing to carry him and his mother all the way there and back on my shoulders.

After I calmed down a bit Esbin and I headed to the wheelchair shop. Esbin had no school today. No it wasn't Esbin's teachers birthday or even the birthday of a friend of Esbin's teacher. Esbin is out of school because the teachers are on strike. From what I am hearing the teachers in Esbin's school have received no pay for several months now. The government seems to be low on money so every now and then they go a month or 2 without paying some of their teachers. This month none of the teachers in Esbin's school got any pay.

When we got to the wheelchair shop we loaded the chin controlled wheelchair that I put together last week into my car and headed for Guatemala City. Since Esbin is not to good at English and my Spanish still stinks I had asked Joviani, who works at our wheelchair shop if he would come along with us to the city to deliver the wheelchair. This proved ot be a real blessing because the only directions to the home of Hector, the young man that needed the wheelchair were written in Spanish and without Joviani's help I would never have found the place. Hector who has muscular dystrophy lives with his mother in a small 2 room home. At first I was not sure that the power wheelchair that we had brought would even fit into their small home. Fortunately the alley outside of there home is paved and so are a lot of other connecting alleys so Hector will have pleny of places to drive his new wheelchair. Hector (By the way this is not his real name but I can't for the life of me remember what it is. I know that it starts with the letter H though.) has muscular dystrophy and has no hand use. That is why I had to build him a chin controlled wheelchair. Unlike some of the head controlled chairs that we have given out we do not need to use expensive ($2500 and up) head control units on these wheelchairs. With a few scrounged parts and a little tinkering a chin controller can be made from the standard hand control unit that is already on a power wheelchair. The chin controller does not work for every one but for Hector it worked perfectly. In no time at all he was driving his new power chair all over the place. I do not know who was more excited he or his mother but saying that they were happy would be an understatement.
Mom watches in amazement
as her son drives his
new chin
controlled power wheelchair.

Lots of kids tonight so I am going to stop writing and spend some time with them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Added footnote - - (I know it would come to me. I remembered it as soon as I phoned Carlos and he gave it to me. It is Julio not Hector. See I told you that it started with an H.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I actually managed to sucker some one else into doing today's journal. Other than a few exaggerations, or perhaps illusions, about my driving and the size of the snake that Dave thought was going to devour or at least flip my car, (considering their ages) Dave and Lou's account of what took place today is some what accurate.

Dave wrote,

Today Dick invited us to go with him to the coast to do a couple of wheelchair repairs and to bring Julio back to Hermano Pedro. He only brought Edwin with him as his teachers are on strike, much to Edwin’s dismay. He was a blessing and really helpful all day acting as a translator. First we went to Rosa’s to see if she was ready to move into her new house near the coast. It wasn’t possible to do the job today as she said that she probably will need a pickup truck and we only had Dick’s Land Cruiser. This is the lady who the American group built the house for last week. We then went to the house to see if the septic was ready. When we got there two men were working on a new fence. Dick believes they were hired by the mare who has been very helpful. Kudos to the men who built the house last week. It is really nice and even has an indoor bathroom.

Next we stopped in to see Julio to make sure that his mom was still willing to bring him to Hermano Pedro to the malnutrition ward. She was willing but had to wait until her husband returned from work so we said that we would return at 2 o’clock. As we headed towards our next destination we saw, what we thought was, a cane of sugar come alive. It was the biggest snake I had ever seen. I haven’t seen Dick scared yet but I’m pretty sure he swerved to miss it. This is sugar cane country and it goes for thousands of acres. It was already about 90 degrees when we passed by a spot where they were burning sugar cane. The temperature must have jumped to over 100. I could not imagine working in those fields. We don’t know how good we have it.

We then stopped at another home to repair a little girl’s chair. We couldn’t change the wheels so we tightened the bearings and Dick explained that he would have to come back at a later date.

She was a sweetheart.

We then went to Ronny’s house and Dick says that he still misses Ronny’s road every time he goes there. It was very hot there but fortunately it was just a matter of changing Ronny’s charger, a quick fix. Both Ronny’s younger brother and sister were not feeling well and Dick said that if they are still sick tomorrow, he will take them to a nearby clinic. Ronny’s brother and sisters were just returning from school and were proud to show us their work.

We then went back to pick up Julio, his mom and his six month old sister, Maria to bring him back to the malnutrition ward at Hermano Pedro in Antigua. We stopped, on the way back, at Sarita’s where Julio gobbled up some of Dick’s lasagna and Maria mushed up Lou’s fries. After arriving in Antigua, Dick made arrangements at Hermano Pedro for Julio to be admitted tomorrow. We then dropped Julio, his mom and his sister off at Casa de Fe, a wonderful place where they give free room and board to people like Julio’s mom who really can’t afford anywhere to stay while they are trying to get family members seen by a doctor.

Thanks Dick for another “cruddy” day in Guatemala.

Note from Lou,

It was a real blessing when Dick let Edwin, who is 12 years old, do some of the driving. I’m sure that I felt Julio jump for joy. Only so much can be blamed on Guatemala’s poor road conditions.

You know how older people are about riding in cars. Had I driven any slower the dust would have caught up with us much like it did back in the old days when Lou was a girl.

Wednesday, February 18, 2010

Most of my morning was comprised of getting Julio admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. A few years ago this process often took up to 2 days but over the years the staff at Hermano Pedro has really gone out of their way to speed the process up for me when ever I bring a starving child in to their facility. Today things went exceptionally fast and by 1PM Julio had been admitted to the malnutrition ward and I was bringing mom and her baby daughter back to their home. Two of my boys, Fernando and Marcos accompanied me when I brought mother back home. Once Fernando and Marcos' teachers herd about the teachers at Esbin's school being on strike they quickly followed suit and did the same. Since we wold not have gotten back home until well after dark we decided to make a mini vacation out of this and tonight we are staying at a motel that is located near the coast. The weather is extremely hot but we are not suffering to badly as the room have air conditioning. Well the boys are telling me that it is time to relax so I guess that I will head out to the pool.

Wow, some times this missionary work sure gets tough.

Yours in Christ, Dick

Friday, February 19, 2010

We are still hiding out at the hotel near the coast but that does not mean that we have not been discovered. Perhaps I should have left my cellphone at home. Ronny's mom called saying that 2 of her younger children were still running fevers. She wondered if I could drive out (2 hours) and take them to the doctor 1/2 hour then drive them back home again 1/2 hour plus my 2 hour return trip home. I suggested that she take a buss which would save me 5 hours and lots of many on gas. She told me that it would not be as convenient for her but that she would make the sacrifice. No sooner had I hung up the phone that I received a call from Lionel's parents. They had not yet returned Lionel to the orphanage after taking him home by buss during Christmas vacation. They called to ask if I could make the 12 hour round trip and bring him back to the orphanage. Once again I suggested the buss. Their response was that if I was not willing to drive there and get him they would have to think about weather or not the wanted to return him to the orphanage. I know that I recently wrote about the servant hart that a Christian should have when dealing with a similar situation when Erica needed medicine, and I ended up bringing the medicine to her but I feel that I am doing these people no favors by jumping through hoops for them when they have been given the means of helping themselves. I had offered buss fare to Lionel's father.

I am trying to write this with an open mind but I think that I need your prayers. So many of the people that I come in contact with need a helping hand but they also need to learn not to try to take the whole arm. What I need is prayer that I remain compassionate but not be wishy-washy. I need to have the wisdom to know how to handle each situation in a loving Christ like manner.

John 9:7

Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam". So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

No where in this passage do I read that Jesus drove or carried the man to the pool. Jesus made him take action in order to receive the help that he needed.

Tonight I am back home. I took 9 of my kids out for Pizza at Camperos. Actually we sat on the curb and ate outside of Camperos. They have a booth out front where you can buy 2 peaces of Pizza and a coke for 10 Q. ($1.25) So I was able to feed the 9 kids for just a little over $10. It beat stocking up on groceries because I have to leave again for a few days tomorrow. Tomorrow a few of us plan on driving 7 hours to meet up with a group from Washington State that has been building a house with Chris and Howie. On Sunday we plan to have a wheelchair distribution in the town where they are building the house. I doubt that I will be able to get on line their so If I can keep my eyes open I will try to get this sen out tonight.

Yours in Christ: Dick